July 9, 2002 saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers eighth album, By the Way, hit store shelves. Produced by the talented master of song, Rick Rubin, By the Way gave Pepper fans another glimpse into the wild and unbridled creativity of this rock band. They themselves consider the creation of their music and craft to be a collective one. In other words, all members partake in the process, they all share in the development of each project, come what may. While it might not work for every creative force, it most certainly has with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Those hoping for a jacked up journey into the land of funk might be disappointed, as this album is intent on allowing fans to see a more melodious and introspective side of the Peppers. Below, we’ve gathered up our top 5 tracks from the Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way album. We don’t expect you to agree with our picks. Instead, take this time to reacquaint yourself with this stellar album.
As By the Way proves, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are anything but a one trick pony. By the Way is a much more vulnerable album than its predecessor, Californication. A prime example of this vulnerability is “Dosed”. “Dosed” is one of those songs where the only one who knows the truth of its meaning would be its composer. For some, it’s a breakup song, for others it references Hillel Slovak.However, no matter the truth behind the song’s meaning and origins, the fact remains that it shows Anthony’s beautiful and sensitive side. “Dosed” is a melodic, haunting tune,one that illustrates the growth of the Peppers. Released on May 19, 2003 “Dosed” peaked at the 13th spot on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart. A fan favorite, you’d be hard pressed to hear “Dosed” played live anytime soon. This is due to how the song was produced. Here, four guitars, each with their own riffs, play during the song. John makes special note of those who influenced his playing on this song, “Matthew Ashman from Bow Wow Wow and Bernard Sumner from Joy Division and New Order: I noticed their influence on me this time too. Again, it’s a matter of texture over technique, and their influences are evident on tracks like “Dosed” and “Midnight.”
4. Don’t Forget Me
“Don’t Forget Me” is thought to represent the nightmare Keidis experienced during rehab. As such, this song is in stark contrast to the head bopping, energetic and vibe filled composition, “By the Way”. Instead, “Don’t Forget Me” is a rather grim tune recounting the gritty and dark days experienced by Anthony. When you listen to this song, keep in mind that Anthony had only been clear since December of 2000, so the darkness he experienced as he composed the lyrics for this album was still recent. With regards to the creation of the song, Frusciante decided to employ some additional tech in order to attain the proper atmosphere. According to Frusciante, tech was introduced which would add just the right distortion to both vocals and instrumentation. On “Don’t Forget Me”, he used a wah pedal and a mellotron.
Arguably one of the most beautiful ballads the Peppers have ever composed and performed, “Midnight” has incurred many interpretations as to its meaning. “Midnight” imparts the taste of semi-sweet chocolate, as the listener experiences a variety of rich and vibrant textures, layered one upon the other, some sweet, others not so much. The song begins with a serene, almost spooky march of liquid violins, leaving the listener at a loss of what to expect. Again, the meaning of the song as a whole is murky at best, with some thinking that the repeat mention of “lotus kids” refers to a flower that thrives in dirty conditions yet radiates beauty within that environment. A heavy song to produce due to the addition of a 41 piece orchestra, “Midnight” was one of the last songs to be included on the album. Potent, compelling and surprisingly effective when it comes to luring emotional reactions from fans, “Midnight” is an absolute treasure. Another testament to the progressive, experimental creative process unique to the Peppers themselves.
If anything can be said about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is that they have a knack for crafting unique tunes, no two albums are alike. In other words, when you listen to one of their albums, such as By the Way, there is no apparent formula. Each song retains its own one-of-a-kind trademark. This stamp of uniqueness becomes even more apparent when one listens to the “Zephyr Song”. Beautifully balanced, the “Zephyr Song” embraces the intricate patterns and textures of all things natural . Indeed, when the casual listener harkens to this tune, we expect they feel swept away to some idyllic island paradise. One can feel the cool, clean and calm breeze known as the zephyr, as you let the song carry you away. Released as a single on August 17, 2002, the song rose to the number sixth spot on the Modern Rock Chart. Its gorgeous melody matched by Anthony’s masterful lyrical sense impart a that of a tropical paradise. An interesting side note involves guitarist John Fusciante and Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. It seems that John borrowed a few notes from the song, “Pure Imagination” and used them for the intro of “Zephyr Song”.
1. By The Way
“By the Way” is the title track of the album of the same name. A crowd favorite, “By the Way” is considered by fans as the best song on the entire album, as evidenced of it inhabiting the number 1 spot on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for 7 weeks, and 14 weeks on the Modern Rock charts. According to Anthony Kiedis, “By the Way” was composed post 9/11. He and John took a vacay to St. Barts, “All this talk about the world coming to an end, and it’s such a destructive time–that’s bulls***t. There’s more infinite beauty out there than there could ever be negativity. Flea describes the the song as reflection of the energy he experienced at a drum and bass club they visited the night before, as he made the effort to take the energy he felt at the club, and bring it into the studio the next day, “By the Way” is a song, a very dynamic song that has a lot of pieces and feelings to it and if you really want, you could just slam your head around like a wild watermelon rolling down a hill ot you could moodily stare into a darker corner.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zttQibrp3e0)
Energetic, potent and powerful, Red Hot Chili Pepper songs have long since had a reputation of being individual pieces of art. Each one unique unto themselves, sounding different than any other band around. However, unlike its predecessors, the album By the Way, eased up on the intense, lusty and vigorous funk vibe of albums gone by, and instead brought us closer into the depth of their character as both individuals and a band. The album does not come on strong, it does not play hard ball with fans. Instead it’s a captivating look into the creative workings of four exceptional talents. So, enjoy the Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way, while you surf, or while sipping a steaming mug of your favorite breakfast brew.